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Locals: gender-neutral items with symbolic undertones by Kyiv-based brand U SO NICE

In the Locals column DTF Magazine tells about new and niche local brands. This time we are introducing U SO NICE. The brand was launched in 2021 and has presented three collections since then. Among the most interesting items are dresses and tops made of fine silk with a complex cut, basic T-shirts with kitschy elements, such as the print ‘Good evening, we are from Ukraine’, as well as clothes dedicated to Ukrainian mythology

About the first longsleeve

‘Fashion as an industry is not very interesting to me, I look at my work as a symbiosis of art and business, — Kateryna Stepanenko, founder of U SO NICE, shares with DTF Magazine. — I used to be a non-serious multidisciplinary artist, but the longer I was busy working in an office nine hours a day, five days a week, the less I was able to create’.

She constantly went to a dressmaker to order tailoring according to her own designs, but never thought of sewing clothes for anyone else. The prerequisite for the creation of the clothing designs was a love for medieval daggers after a visit to the Guimet Museum in Paris.

MOKSHA longsleeve

‘I thought it would be cool to print their images on a longsleeve with extra-long sleeves’, Kateryna says. They are part of the debut collection of U SO NICE.

About the brand concept

Kateryna encapsulated the idea of U SO NICE in a few words: ‘The idea of freedom’.

‘First and foremost, it is a personal story about liberation from modern office enslavement, about the freedom to become yourself, in particular, it is also about being gender-neutral, — she elaborates. — U SO NICE is a design project, and that is its strongest point, because it has identity, principles, inspiration, responsibility, not the schedules of seasons and sales outside of any context’.

About the creation of collections

Until December 2022, U SO NICE was Kateryna’s side project, which she worked on ‘when she wasn’t too tired due to her main work and had inspiration’.

‘I quit my job in December 2022, then took four months off, and it’s only been three months since I’ve been fully committed to U SO NICE, and it’s a powerful game changer’.

U SO NICE does not produce large batches of collections, and most items have been available for pre-order for a long time. The brand still re-releases some items from past collections due to demand.

About the team and production

Almost all U SO NICE production processes take place in Kyiv: the brand cooperates with a local tailor shop, and a friend of the founder helps us with the design and sewing of complex items. The only exception is knits, which are made by Anna in Lviv.

The team also includes a technical specialist who runs the website, business and creative functions are handled by Kateryna for now, but she plans to expand the team.

About material selection and product testing

Since the brand is not mass-produced, Kateryna does not order materials from abroad in bulk, but looks for them herself among suppliers of Italian materials.

After the items are made she wears them and then notices and corrects non-obvious mistakes afterward’.

‘I prefer silk, wool, the highest quality cotton, if there is no possibility to find its more ecological analogs, so problems with the fabric arise very rarely, — the designer says. — More often there are problems with the cut, so testing it by myself is a must for me’.

About items with patriotic designs in the collections

Kateryna notes that such things are born because she either lives for it or thinks about it, besides, they can have different missions: popularization of culture and history for foreign audiences or charity, as in the case of a separate drop ‘I <3 Ukraine’: all profits are given to the fund ‘Tsvit’ for the needs of the military.

‘The second collection was about Ukrainian mythology, which is very interesting to me, I want the world to know about it’.

For example, the collection includes a short dress ‘Rusalka’ with puffs, a white two-piece swimsuit ‘Mavka’, as well as a mini skirt with sequins ‘Litavets’. The name of the latter item refers to the evil spirit of the same name, which personifies meteors and lightning, and also comes to women in the images of their deceased loved ones.

Among other iconic items in the collection, Kateryna mentions a T-shirt with a Ukrainian icon shot by an NKVD officer, and a ‘Dolia’ skirt with a message from artist Olha Fedorova and a print of enemy blood on the hem.

‘I also love kitschy cultural realities, so the integration ‘Good evening, we are from Ukraine’ according to my own vision is about humor, — the designer says. — The quote ‘You know that you are human’ has been with me since I first read this poem by Symonenko, it’s something on an intangible level’. This poem was written on a scarf by Kateryna’s hand.

These items, as well as clothes with complex cuts made of transparent silk, were included in the third collection, which we told you more about here.

About work targeted at an international audience

‘It was clear from the beginning that people abroad would understand me better, and that’s what happened’, Kateryna says.

For the first year, the brand’s products were ordered mainly by people from Oceania, the United States and Europe.

One shoulder top

‘Apart from the unusualness of the design, Ukrainians do not understand why they should give non-mass market funds for a no-name brand, — Kateryna explains. — While abroad there is a trend towards independent designers’.

According to her, even industry giants understand this and try to mimic the zoomers, such as Miu Miu: ‘But in Ukraine, the majority of solvent audience will still look towards beige wardrobe by brands with a large audience, which are often illegitimate by European standards inspired by the designs of The Row, Khaite and so on’.

‘This is also interesting, but U SO NICE is not the format for this audience, — she adds. — At the same time, foreign partners find us and offer cooperation’.

About the next collection

The U SO NICE team is now working on expanding the line of mohair knits, eco-leather items and a range of accessories. The new collection will be released in September and will have a rich color palette.

‘I <3 Ukraine’ T-shirt


ICON T-shirt — 1550 UAH

‘Litavets’ skirt — 2800 UAH

One shoulder top — 3600 UAH

Design partner —
Development — Mixis